Follow the lack of money

Jeff Jarvis is looking for better stewards of journalism's future. He explains,

I don’t see enough development going on in new news efforts — enough to save journalism from the sinking news business. And that’s what’s troubling me. The old players are proving to be quite ineffective stewards — we knew that — but there aren’t enough new stewards joining the church.

Problem is, you can't make a new business out of an old business that's turned into a church. Wall Street isn't up for that, and most of the big papers work for Wall Street. The word "stewardship" alone is a boat anchor on any company's stock price.

Frankly, it'll be a long time before newspapers fail, if they ever do. And magazines remain a healthy, if not a high-growth, business. Papers like the L.A. Times are actually quite profitable. They're just not profitable enough to satisfy Wall Street.

That's why I'm beginning to think that fixing big-J journalism (that is, fixing newspapers) with Yet Another Business is like fixing Catholicism with Protestantism, or fixing Windows with MacOS.

Computing gets better all the time because the operating systems business is being steadily replaced by building materials (mostly Linux) and practices (FOSS) that grow wild in human nature — and are hardly businesses at all. Yet they're extraordinarily good for business, because they create a solid infrastructure on top of which all kinds of "solutions" can be built.

The same thing needs to happen in journalism.

Scoop Nisker famously says "if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own". That's what Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds and thousands (millions?) of other independent developers have been doing with tools, operating systems and other building materials required to re-make computing in ways that were not captive to any vendor's controlling interests. The result is much more freedom for many more vendors to go into all kinds of businesses that put free and open materials and methods to use.

We're seeing some of that happen in news gathering and distribution. Thanks to the features Dave Winer put in RSS, publishing now has a revolutionary set of free distribution and subscription methods — for everybody, from one-person blogs to the New York Times.

We need more tools like RSS, and more people using them, in more creative ways. Most of all, we need more journalists (of both new and aged vintages) to take advantage of these new tools and methods. Once they do, the business will follow.

Jeff adds,

The old players can’t do it. We need more new players to take hold of the future of news — not just journalists but entrepreneurs and managers and investors and inventors. It’s there for the taking.

I think Jeff's right. I also think you need the inventors first.

That's a hint, by the way.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change

Bill de hOra's picture

new journalism

steve sampson's picture

I couldn't agree more about a "new age" of journalism. I come from 20 years on UK newspapers with either Murdoch or the Mirror Group. Rupert has got it - big time. Problem is that most of the rest think that embracing "online" is to put up a digital version of the day's paper. I would think that in just about every office The Editor has paid no more than a backward glance to the opportunities - mainly because they don't see any quick, easy new circulation. Which is why social networking and the enormous impact has passed them by... and therefore the chance to interact off and online with the readers. Instead they run stories about YouTube as though it was a quirky zoo exhibit which really has no bearing on them. If Tesco ran newspapers the reader would the client, and they would know everything about them - then satisfy their needs and turn them into 7-day purchasers. Newspapers run competitons to win a $1M. We pick a winner and throw the "losers".... our readers... the rest of our data in the bin. Something as basic SMS interaction with the readers? No chance. Anyone who thinks that newspapers are merely in a "short term downturn" is in denial.

It's already started...

Christopher Penn, Financial Aid Podcast's picture

The evolution of news has already started. Your blog is proof enough of that. Blogs, vlogs, podcasts, you name it - the tools are out there and are being used. Where "new media" hasn't made it yet is in widespread adoption of the tools' output by more people currently using "old media". That's where the real innovation needs to happen - make it so easy for people to get ahold of new media that it's not only easier than it is currently, but easier than turning on the TV or buying a newspaper.

Where are those tools?

Invention in journalism

Mike Walker's picture

I couldnt disagree more. The world seems to be full of inventive journalists and news. The new communities of the web are leading journalism to exciting new areas.

You are correct; there are

Anonymous's picture

You are correct; there are indeed plenty of inventive journalists and news. But most of them don't work for major media outlets; they very often have their own blogs, like Pamela Jones of Groklaw.